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Between 2005 and 2011, IMC published Daily Tips every weekday on consulting ethics, marketing, service delivery and practice management. You may search more than 800 tips on this website using keywords in "Search all posts" or clicking on a tag in the Top Tags list to return all tips with that specific tag. Comment on individual tips (members and registered guests) or use the Contact Us form above to contact Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Daily Tips author/editor. Daily Tips are being compiled into several volumes and will be available through IMC USA and Mark Haas.

 

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Top tags: client relations  communication  customer understanding  your consulting practice  marketing  consultant role  learning  client service  reputation  goodwill  consulting process  market research  practice management  sales  ethics  planning  client development  engagement management  innovation  proposals  professional development  professionalism  knowledge assets  prospect  trends  presentations  recommendations  consulting colleagues  intellectual property  product development 

#170: Keeping Clients On Track

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, November 6, 2009
My clients are always behind schedule in the implementation of the recommendations I make. We have very specific timelines on all of our projects, but they always seem to fall behind schedule because of a few people on the "critical path" letting things "slip." Do you have any suggestions?

You certainly might suggest to your client that a project management seminar or "refresher" course might be helpful to get things back on track. You may feel strongly that you don't want to interfere too much in the management of your client's staff. One of the techniques you might want to try is the "reminder" method. Try using a short, friendly note sent a day or two ahead of a due date, gently worded in the form of a "reminder" that something important is due. Word choice is very important. Be sure to strategically use this phrase in your note: "Make sure to let me know if there is anything I can do to help!" You might also "CC" the project leader on the "reminder" note in order to subtly enlist their assistance in helping the team member meet the deadline.

Tip: We are rarely called on to manage our client's staff, but we can certainly play a role in expediting action items without interfering. The key is to be non-presumptuous, non-accusatory, and always willing to offer help.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consultant role  consulting process  engagement management 

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#169: "Don't Boil The Ocean"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, November 5, 2009
Updated: Friday, November 6, 2009
I've heard the phrase, "Don't boil the ocean!" from time to time, but I am not clear on its meaning.

The phrase "Don't boil the ocean" refers to the act of "over-scoping" a project or trying to solve too large a problem (or too many problems at once), thereby making your success at effectively solving it unlikely. It can describe an attempt at achieving something that is too large in scale or way too ambitious. Attempting to "boil" the ocean is not a practical task to take on due to its sheer magnitude and failure is a near certainty.

Tip: Consultants can run the risk of attempting to "boil the ocean" when scoping their projects and must work with their clients to set realistic expectations and successful and timely delivery of results.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting terminology 

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#168: Are Your Clients Measuring Numbers Rather Than Results?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, November 4, 2009
We help our clients design and implement sophisticated performance measurement systems. However, it is always a struggle to keep these from being hijacked by the finance departments, who focus on month to month data and not long term goals.

Performance measurement systems are affected by the culture of the group designing and using them. There is nothing wrong with a financial reporting system, but this should not be confused with a performance management system. The latter is intended to guide an organization to results. The finance function, however, is grounded in a culture of risk avoidance and control. The effect of that perspective is to focus on process, accuracy of predictions and variance with expected data.

How much variation in month to month results are typical for your industry? Are long-term trends heading in the right direction? Does your executive team have evidence that past variance with plans is a good predictor of failure to meet goals? Is there a basis to believe this is the case now? Is the finance function being given undue influence over business operations? Remember, accounting is a trailing indicator and, while a provider of important data, it is a supporting function, not a business driver.

Tip: Discuss with your client during performance measurement system design what the specific culture, perspective and impact each department will have on providing data and interpreting those data. Talk about how decisions will be made if one set of data are well outside of expected predictions. How are accountabilities to be set, i.e., how much allowance is appropriate for variance and who is accountable for "fixing" that variance? Have these conversations during the design phase so that your client is not embroiled in conflict about a number rather than measuring progress against long-term organizational objectives.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  assessment  business culture  communication  information management  planning 

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#167: Do You Really Not Have Enough Time For Professional Development?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, November 3, 2009
I know I should be going to more conferences and doing more reading, but I just can't find the time. Consulting to clients is my priority right now.

Although I guess I should be used to it by now, I am always surprised when this comes up in conversation. A presumably professional consultant is saying that delivering services based on what they learned years ago is more important than keeping up with emerging trends in consulting, management and business. Apparently lifelong learning, developing consulting competencies, working on your business acumen through peer interaction, and skill building in service delivery - the hallmarks of a professional consultant - aren't as universal as we would hope.

Contrast a professional with a journeyman consultant. The journeyman delivers services based on what he or she learned on the job. Professionals create value for themselves and their clients by investing in their education, peer interactions, learning, research, reading, and writing. Your value as a consultant declines with your depletion of knowledge based on just experience. Business is moving quickly enough that if you are not recreating your practice every few years, you will slowly (or quickly, depending on your specialty) become outdated and of little value to your clients.

Tip: Just like investing your money, if you don't invest in yourself as a priority, you may never make the investment. When you lay out your professional development plan each year, schedule your conferences at one time. Don't get into the bad habit of saying to yourself, "I don't know what my client demands are for that month so I can't plan to go to that conference now." There are lots of reasons why you can't meet with a client, but telling them you are unavailable because you are expanding your skills and networks say a lot about your professionalism.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  knowledge assets  learning  practice management  professional development  professionalism  your consulting practice 

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#166: Connecting Your Services with Your Client's Self Identity

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 2, 2009
Updated: Monday, November 2, 2009
What is it about some consultant's services that get them an engagement and others, with almost identical services, never get called back?

Conventional wisdom says that sales efforts work better when they like the offered service, they like and trust you, and the price is right. All well and good, but what do they like about what you are offering? What is it about the specific service or about you that makes them comfortable enough to approve the purchase? Conventional wisdom stops short of a real explanation.

It appears, however, that science is starting to fill in the gaps. Recent research in the field of neuromarketing is giving clues to the specific brain mechanism that causes a person to buy one good over another. Research at Emory University showed that the brain's medial prefrontal cortex is largely involved in making choices. Scanning MRI images of this area of the brain, which also is highly involved in self-identification and our personality, showed high activity when people were offered a choice that aligned with their self-concept. See How the Brain Reveals Why We Buy.

At a high level, this is logical but contains an important nuance. Success in sales is more than being personally likable or having a product that makes intellectual sense. Your prospect needs to believe that your services, or at least the benefits that accrue from using them, fit with their self-image. Give them a scenario that shows them integrating your services into their organization in a way consistent with their values, managerial style and ability to communicate value to their organization. Trying to sell an "innovative" service won't work if it’s use is at odds with the way they see themselves.

Tip: The Scientific American article referred to above shows that even when an "obviously" better product is matched up against a product to which the customer can better identify, the latter product wins. This means you need to really know your prospect's personality, style and preferences before pitching your services. Think sync before sizzle.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  client development  client service  customer understanding  market research  marketing  product development  proposals  prospect  sales 

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